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Hardware and heart-ware needed in Land Offices
22/04/2006 NST-PROP By Salleh Buang

There has been much “official good news” publicised about the computerisation of the Land Offices throughout the country. However, on the quiet, friends in-the-know tell me that the situation is not really as bright as it ought to be.

One source, a senior land administrator in a northern State, informed me recently that the computerised land registration system in his office works well “only half the time ... at best three or sometimes four days in a week”. At other times, it is down, resulting in the workload piling up and waiting time increasing. Certainly, it isn’t a very bright picture.

What about the services, in terms of repair, maintenance and so on, from the system’s vendor? His swift reaction surprised me. No such service! This state of affairs has been going on for some time, he added, with weary despair.

Since this is a clear case of default by the system’s vendor or maintenance contractor, why hasn’t appropriate action been taken against the party responsible?

It may be because the terms of agreement between the vendor/contractor and the Land Office didn’t spell out exactly the former’s scope of duties. If my assumption is correct, probably adequate legal advice had not been sought in drafting the agreement between the parties.

My chat with the civil servant reminded me of what happened more than two decades ago, when the Companies Registry (now called Companies Commission of Malaysia) computerised its operations. Instead of a faster service, things became painfully slow. It was only much later that the new system functioned as promised. Are we seeing the same thing now in our Land Offices?

It was in September 2003 when Dr Tan Kee Kwong, then Deputy Minister of Land and Co-operative Development, announced the Federal Government’s allocation of RM200 million to implement the National Computerised Land Registration System. Following this, the Government provided new ICT equipment to 107 locations throughout the country. Indeed, a lot of money and a lot of equipment! But were they put to good use?

Everybody knows that computer hardware will not function without the necessary software. And if the software is not compatible with the hardware, it won’t work either. If the software is corrupted (due to virus attack, poor handling or maintenance), the system will also fail. If the necessary data is not available, the system will not perform well – even with the best hardware in the world. Finally, despite the best hardware and software, the result will still be disappointing if the system operators are not properly trained.

Simply put, we need excellent hardware, software and the right “heartware” to effectively computerise the Land Offices in this country. No machine on earth, no computer program devised by human brain, can produce any good, lasting result if the requisite human element (the heartware) is missing.

In March last year, Chief Secretary Tan Sri Samsudin Osman launched the Land Application and Monitoring System (LAMS) for Negeri Sembilan, aimed at ensuring a faster and more efficient delivery system. He announced then that the system was successfully implemented in Perak, where 31,000 land applications had so far been processed. I am not certain of the LAMS status in the other States.

Besides LAMS, there are a few land systems in operation, all running on their own and waiting for intergration.

In Penang, there is e-Tanah, “an integrated and fully computerised system to handle the management and administration of Land Offices in order to improve the speed and quality of service delivery to the public for all land related transactions”. Penang was chosen for the pilot project and upon its successful completion, e-Tanah would be extended to the other States.

Other systems are available in Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak and Penang, which have been implemented with the specific purpose of facilitating revenue collection.

In Selangor, there is a special system to process applications for strata titles, while Perak has one for the disposal of State land via alienation, known as Sistem Permohonan Pelupusan Tanah Secara Pemberianmilik or SPTP. In Terengganu, there is e-Consent, which is to facilitate the giving of consent in matters of transfers and charges.

A strong, positive feature of e-Tanah is that it is web-based and thus, able to integrate and standardise all existing systems, such as SPTB (Computerised Land Registration System), SPHT (Computerised Revenue Collection System) and LAMS.

It also takes into consideration security features. When fully installed and running, at least 24 transactions can be made online – including disposal of land, registration of land titles, issuance of strata titles, surrender and re-alienation of land and revenue and quit rent collection.

Security is obviously a vital feature of any system, especially one that’s ICT-dependent. In a question and answer session in Parliament on Nov 23 last year, Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk S. Sothinathan admitted that at least 27 cases of fraudulent practice in land dealings and land registration had been reported to Selangor’s director of Lands and Mines. Of these, three have gone to trial, one has been disposed of and the remaining 24 cases are still under investigation.

Expected to be fully operational by 2008, e-Tanah is touted to be “customer-friendly”. Under it, members of the public can get information quickly and pay quit rent easily at one-stop agencies, retrieve reports from technical agencies and expect business processes and decision-making to be completed without any delay.

Exciting developments indeed! Mention must also be made of the newly drafted National Land Policy, now being fine-tuned by a working group under the Federal department of Lands and Mines. The project leader of the group, Dr Azimuddin Bahari, said recently that one of the strategies of the new policy is to implement corporate culture and modernisation in the Land Offices through ICT. One key objective of the policy is to create “a world-class land administration and management system”.

On paper, e-Tanah and the ICT strategy outlined in the National Land Policy look very promising and extremely encouraging. But having heard my northern State land administrator friend’s problems even at this initial stage of a stand-alone (non-integrated) computerised land registration system, I cannot help but wonder whether the future is indeed going to be as bright as it has been painted by the authorities.

I do not doubt the seriousness and commitment of the authorities in initiating the plan. My doubts concern the implementation capacity on the ground.

Salleh Buang is senior advisor of a company specialising in competitive intelligence. He is also active in training and public speaking and can be reached at


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